Tuesday, November 17, 2015


If you were in Sydney early in 1992, you're in for a bit of déjà vu all over again at Te Papa. As part of their new re-hang of the national collection, the curators have made an elegant homage to an earlier exhibition. This exhibition was part of their own history back when they were known as the National Art Gallery. The last time Julian Dashper’s Mural for a contemporary house and Lillian Budd’s Modern world were coupled was in Headlands

It was the opening exhibition for the MCA in Sydney (kinda amazing for an Australian institution to launch with NZ art, and hasn't been done again) and curated by the National Art Gallery's Robert Leonard. Ok, there was a curatorium (why don’t they use cool names like that any more? … oh, that’s right, we remember), but it was Leonard’s exhibition, and the Dashper Budd combo is about as pure Leonard as you can get. There are other more subtle echoes of Headlands in the Te Papa hang in the selection of artists (Dawson, Derek Cherrie) as well as the title of this section (Mod Cons in Headlands, Open Homes at Te Papa). So if you want to experience something with more than a bit of the flavour of Headlands, head to Te Papa, but don't expect to see that history acknowledged. Nowhere on the signage or labels is there any link back to the MCA, Leonard or Te Papa's own connections with these objects. Seems a weird way to participate in art history. Or maybe the similarity in the selections is just a coincidence and George Santayana was right, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Images: top Headlands 1992 and bottom Te Papa 2015